2.5 million SL users by 2010? Maybe.

Veteran aussie SL developer Gary Hayes (Gary Hazlitt) has postulated that there may be as many as 2.5 million simultaneous SL users by mid-2010. Guessing at numbers that far into the future is always going to be crystal-ball gazing but instinctively 2.5 million doesn’t seem out of the bounds of possibility – particulary with improvements in scaleability that should occur in coming months and years.

Such numbers would equate to around a couple of hundred thousand aussies in SL – that’s quite a critical mass.

One note: the 80 000 concurrency experienced last weekend was probably a glitch.

More than just the jitters? Australian business in Second Life

One of the most commonly reported aspects of SL is its relationship with RL business. A year ago, the reporting was predominantly rose-shaded and that continued up until recently when some US business reduced or ceased their SL presence. The mood change in the mainstream media was noticeable and to a large extent its continued. Even in the SL blogosphere there’s arguably a more sceptical tone adopted in relation to corporate presences – there were always sceptics but there’s now a wider acceptance of the pitfalls of doing business in SL. That said, corporations continue to set up shop – Peugeot are a recent example.

In an Australian context, Telstra and the ABC’s launches remain the largest to date with a few smaller presences either established or under way. Is it just our relatively small population that explains the state of play or a fundamental case of ‘wait and see’?

SL Education vs Personal Beliefs

We have been tracking the growing number of educational facilities setting up presences in SL. Many have been active in setting up and conducting both courses and specific lectures in-world.

A recent email list posting amongst SL educators raised the issue of a student declining participation in the SL portion of coursework due to “personal beliefs”. The ongoing thread has covered a number of possible scenarios and reasons behind such a refusal and this may be a good thing given recent postings here about under-age content and use of “mature” areas when setting up a presence as an education provider.

Given the emergence of SL as an exciting and different medium for the delivery of courses and syllabus content the issue of not being penalised for refusing to participate in in-world coursework is a new and never before encountered tension that educators may have to deal with in a formal policy manner.

It has been discussed amongst educators that both strict Islamic and conservative Christian students object to graphic representations of the human body. As one educator stated, “In this case, SL would certainly be a religious problem.”

For SL based course-work it may mean requirign strict body and clothing forms for students when participating and locked areas for course particpants only.

A wander through either the Australian or Foreign Universities currently engaged in SL has shown most people in casual dress. But if a student were to choose the form of a furry or other such form, would it distract from the lecture, offend other students or in some way draw a code of conduct indiscretion under SL or the University’s guidelines?

Then again, maybe the term “hippy” may need to be rephrased to encompass fippies (furry), aippy (age-play form) or mippy (monster style students).

News.com.au – Terrorists in SL

Mainstream media reporting of Second Life in Australia has a mixed track record, and one of the biggest low points would have to be in this article on the news.com.au website published today. It can also be found on The Australian website.

The article starts off regurgitating the (never confirmed) accusation that the 22nd May issues with ABC Island were due to a ‘bomb’. Then it goes further downhill from there, describing how “landscapes are razed and residents are wounded or killed” after an attack by the SL Liberation Army.

It seems doubtful that the article’s author, Natalie O’Brien, has spent more than ten minutes in SL given the range of other factual errors contained in the story. Here’s one more example to get you worked up: “This terror campaign, which has been waged during the past six months, has left a trail of dead and injured, and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars’ damage”.

The sad thing is, the shoddy premise of the article overshadows the legitimate concern about the power of virtual worlds for use in criminal pursuits. Yes, terrorists groups COULD use streaming video in SL to broadcast propaganda or training. But why would you bother? I suppose potential terrorists may believe the misinformation about being able to wound or kill people in SL and decide they’ll register for some killing fun. My, how they’ll be disappointed.

Is it just ‘Summer’ Doldrums?

Since the release of the June metrics, there’s been a general consensus that a peak has been reached. The only conjecture is when growth is likely to increase again. Or if it will at all. The northern hemisphere commentators are calling it summer doldrums but not ruling out a deeper change.


Australian users are contradicting the trend, with a jump from 1.93% to 2.61% in active Australian users. That’s arguably because the Australiam media’s interest in Second Life is recent when compared to the USA and Europe. As media stories increase their focus on user growth, some will argue the media are spooking potential new users. That may be a risk, however any product lives or dies on its usability and Second Life is no different. Imminent enhancements like voice will determine in a large way that perception of improving usability.

The Australian Women’s Weekly covers SL

The Australian Women’s Weekly have run an article titled ‘Internet Communities Explained’ and SL gets a guernsey. RMIT’s Dr Lisa Dethridge is quoted extensively in relation to SL and one quote caught my attention in particular:

“avatars tend to keep the fantasy alive by refraining from chat about ‘RL’ [real life] and referring to this world as if it were the only world. Unlike regular chat rooms, where people discuss the details of their lives online, Second Life is a kind of hermetically sealed zone with laws unto itself”


The intention of the statement is clear but it also clashes with my interactions with aussies in SL, particularly the newer users. It’s rare to not hear people asking each other where they’re from in RL. The wariness around disclosing extensive personal information definitely remains but it seems the boundaries between RL and SL aren’t as defined as they used to be. Do you find the same?

It’ll also be interesting to see the level of Australian sign-ups when Meta Linden releases the June stats – between 60 Minutes and the Australian Women’s Weekly, it’s been a mainstream media feast this month courtesy of PBL – perhaps a SL presence is looming including a virtual Crown Casino?

Some big guns take aim at SL’s usefulness for business


The SL Herald in their inimitable style discuss some criticism being leveled by big business at SL. Quoting a Forbes article titled ‘Sex, Pranks and Reality’, the SL Herald summarise the corporations shutting up shop or thinking about it. The prize quote from the Forbes article comes from Wells Fargo’s digital agency:

“Going into Second Life now is the equivalent of running a field marketing program in Iraq.”

Of course, I’m yet to understand why any corporation would go into SL with any perception other than it being an experiment. An experiment with potential for success, but one all the same.

The city sims – where’s Melbourne?

Knightsbridge, Liverpool (recently relocated from a mainland sim to an island) and Amsterdam are just three cities that have their SL replicas, of varying accuracy and purpose.



Other city areas replicated include Times Square in New York (currently in development) and Paris (circa 1900).


They all have their appeal, but I’m wondering when someone will take on an Australian city. I personally believe Melbourne would be the pick – iconic parts of Sydney have been well and truly covered now (Sydney Opera House, Darling Harbour, Sydney Harbour Bridge) whereas Melbourne has a character that would make it sit nicely aside replicas like Liverpool. Amsterdam well and truly has the red-light district covered so not sure a virtual King’s Cross or St Kilda is required.

What are your thoughts on city sims – do they have a contribution to make in SL and if so, what contribution do you think an Australian city sim would make?

Business headcount – a different perspective

Over at New World Notes, Hamlet Au discusses SL as the great equaliser for businesses of all sizes – that the relatively low traffic to large corporate sites (as a proportion of overall traffic) and the relative ease of content creation means that smaller operations including individuals can punch well above their weight on one of the more even playing fields.

It’s analogous to the general situation of Australians in Second Life – we’re out there making ourselves known, belying the small proportion of the overall SL population we are. I wouldn’t disagree with Au’s summation: “if these companies ever stand a chance of being relevant in SL, they will have to learn from the amateurs, and adjust their expectations and approach to their grassroots level”. It’s a lesson that’s started to have been taken on board locally.

Criticism of Second Life – same old, same old

Jokay Wollongong provides an interesting story on an education symposium she attended and she made one point around how online learning guru Stephen Downes reeled off the usual litany of criticisms of SL, ones we all experience: lag, lack of interoperability with other virtual worlds and the issue of boundaries/rules in a metaverse context. All totally legitimate criticisms and ones that need to keep being made by the broader community.


However, the story does illustrate the huge growth in ‘experts’ proliferating in regards to virtual worlds. It’s not an unusual phenomenon, but a reasonable expectation of anyone claiming expertise is that they will provide constructive, considered thoughts on alternative approaches. Stephen Downes may certainly have done that but as SL grows, the number of people attempting to make a living off commentating on SL will also expand. Here’s hoping the chorus of commentary doesn’t turn into an ill-informed lynch mob – as always it’s about balance.

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